Children, adults take annual pledge to promote disability inclusion at Partners in Learning

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2022

SALISBURY — Educators, parents, children, the mayor and mayor pro tem all participated in Partners in Learning’s annual pledge to eliminate the “R” word and focus on including all students regardless of disabilities in the community.

The opportunity to take the pledge began last week at the PIL center with a banner signing, with Mayor Karen Alexander and Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Sheffield taking part. The learning center also had an option on social media for those who could not come by for them to take part.

The global movement to Spread the Word to End the Word began 10 years ago to address the exclusionary “R-word.” Since then, PIL in Salisbury has participated in the pledge every March for those wanting to become part of the change.

“We need to be aware of how our words can impact and exclude people with intellectual developmental disabilities,” said Executive Director Norma Honeycutt. 

The movement has shifted from just the elimination of the R-word to promoting inclusion for all people with disabilities. “It can be even be something small,” she said. 

PIL’s most recent goal is to include changing tables in the preschool rooms of their new building. 

“Not all children are developed to be at the same age level,” Honeycutt said. “For those with developmental disabilities, changing tables are important to have access at all times.”

More than 40% of the Partners In Learning student body includes both staff and children with special needs. 

“PIL teaches its students compassion, decency and the value of equality,” Honeycutt said.  “The global engagement campaign remains committed to empowering grassroots leaders to change their communities, schools and workplaces, now through a call to their peers to take action for inclusion. With this change, Spread the Word will give community leaders around the world the tools needed to create socially inclusive places to learn, work and live.”

For these leaders, PIL reaches out to community facilities for training and options to show inclusion for every body is possible. The program additionally encourages college students, educators and childhood workers to maintain classrooms where individuals with and without disabilities can learn together without fear or stigma.

“Everyone has heard the saying ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world.’ Partners In Learning is invested in working towards a more inclusive community; we want to be the change that we see in the world. Exclusion happens every day for our families and children with special needs around the world,” said Cassie Karriker, early intervention director. “We are motivated to help make the change not only in our center but in Rowan and surrounding counties. Partners In Learning is committed to providing safe spaces and support to families by offering family events that are a judgment-free zone.”

Partners in Learning plans to hold a virtual mini conference in April for training and educational purposes concerning making Salisbury a more inclusive environment. A date has not been announced for the event.

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